Some things have been falling through the cracks lately, and occasionally I have to wonder if one of those things is my sanity. I’ve wanted to write this post for a while, but haven’t had the “golden opportunity” to do so yet. But I’m tired of waiting for the perfect moment for pretty much anything, because for me that just means I keep waiting and waiting and then wondering if the best opportunity already passed by.
Here’s the thing: That’s how a lot of us treat days off. Uh oh, I said the thing. The American Dream and the Protestant work ethic are gonna come haunt me if I’m not more careful. Of course, that’s incredibly flippant, but I also mean it seriously. For so much of Western society, especially the U.S., taking a day off just because it’s what would be best for you is avoided and looked down upon to the point of being taboo. It’s irresponsible, wasteful, unrealistic, lazy.
And I really do understand that for some people taking a day off isn’t a feasible reality. When you have other people to care for and need to put food on the table, it’s not always an option. But your continued well-being is too important to be put on hold forever.
So I don’t care — take an hour off, a day off, five freaking minutes off. If you can feel that you are getting burned out, give yourself a break.
Signs of burnout include (but aren’t limited to):
- Trouble focusing
- Unpredictable appetite
- Trouble sleeping or getting up in the morning
- Prolonged periods of high stress
- Bouts of apathy
These symptoms can of course be indicative of other things, but if you’re feeling like this list nearly sums you up, it might be time to figure out where you can take a step back. Maybe that means skipping your workout or taking a mental health day. Maybe it means saying no to another responsibility or endeavor. Maybe it means staying in on a Friday night instead of going out. Maybe it means ditching your family or plans and just going for a walk or to the movies.
I am, historically, not great at this. My junior year of college was overwhelming to the point of taking a really big toll on my health, and I hit the lowest point I’ve ever been at. It was really difficult, but I had to change something. So I started going to counseling, and eventually took a few things off my plate. It wasn’t easy; counseling was way outside my comfort zone, and I risked further damaging an already uneasy relationship when I discontinued a large commitment I had taken on. I skipped classes sometimes, and renegotiated a big assignment with one professor so that I could spend time with an ailing family member.
And I didn’t get better immediately. I didn’t get better steadily. I still have awful days and seasons. But within a few months even I could see the difference, and other people went out of their way to mention it to me. Honestly I wish the adults in my life had been better at teaching me this in practice and not just words, but now that I’m an adult I’m trying to get better at it.
So please, if you feel like it’s too much, figure out the best way to give your mind or heart or body (or all of them) a break. Talk to your boss or your family or someone about where you’re at, and ways to lighten your load. Your future self will thank you, and there is no shame in making sure you have the strength to keep going. What methods have you found most effective at preventing burnout? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!